As the world grows smaller, you may find yourself travelling from one major city to another for business. If you’re a leading executive you know that major business deals are signed not only in the boardroom, but at the golf course and the dining table. With that being said, international business etiquette, including dining etiquette plays a major role when it comes to conducting business successfully in foreign nations.
Did you know that there are thousands of people who travel to China every year for business? No matter where you travel, being sensitive of other cultures and learning the codes of how locals conduct themselves can earn you valuable points. The Chinese take their food seriously. Contrary to Western dining, dining etiquette in China involves sharing food from common bowls.
If you’re travelling to China to sign a major corporate business deal, pay heed to these top 10 dining etiquette rules by Sally Huang, who hails from Guangzhou, China, before you head out to your next Chinese business dinner:
1. Attend the formal business dinner punctual in formal suits. It is better to bring some small gifts or good win per status of the relationship with the host.
2. Take appropriate seat as they are usually arranged according to seniority. If you are not sure about it, ask the host or wait and see how others take seats.
3. Don’t be surprised if your host orders more food than you can have as it is usually the way Chinese show their hospitality. Moreover, it is a way to show their “Mian zi”, namely face in English as Chinese attach great importance to mianzi.
To reiterate it further, Mianzi, or “face” in English, can loosely be translated to “status” or “self-respect”. A huge part of Chinese social etiquette, having “face” means you are viewed as someone who is respected by your peers, superiors and subordinates. Mianzi can also be understood as the avoidance of embarrassment in front of others.
4. Don’t point your chopsticks directly at others or straight upright in your rice bowl as it resembles the incense burnt at funerals.
5. Don’t slurp your soup loudly at the dinner table as it is considered as impolite.
6. Take food first from the plates in front of you rather than those in the middle or in front of others. Avoid using your chopsticks burrowing through the food and gazing your eyes to the plates as it is thought as bad table manners.
7. Use a spoon that no one has used before to take food from communal plates for yourself or others even though it is common in China that in family gathering or company gathering, people use their own chopsticks to get food.
8. When adding rice to your bowl, it is polite to take initiative to fill the bowls of the elders and others.
9. Drinking bear is a core process. If you are toasting with others, usually it is expressed with the words “Gan bei”, which is denoted as “Cheers” in English, mainly bottoms up or empty your glass. It is not necessary to empty your glass, but to leave a good impression, it would be good to do it or bring someone who can drink on your part.
10. It is usually the host who pays for the bill excluding informal gatherings among friends and other similar occasions. However, in Chinese custom, it is polite to make an effort to pay, that’s the reason why it is common to see some Chinese fighting fierce for the right to pay.
Learning about dining etiquette in China or any other country can give you a major advantage in procuring the deal, especially if you’re competing with other firms.
Talk to Diane Craig before you head out to foreign lands to procure your next business deal. Her international etiquette tips might just be the difference between returning with your head held high – or down.